The major broadcast networks have now taken aim at the free streaming service, Locast.
A lawsuit has now been filed on behalf of ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC over what the networks consider to be a violation of copyright law.
Locast is a service that provides free access to local channels via streaming. Users can simply download the app and gain access to whatever local feeds are available in their area, including those from the major networks.
This is not the first service to attempt something like this but it was understood Locast was in a better legal position considering the service is registered as a not-for-profit service. Presumably, the networks disagree with this and are hoping to put an end to the free streaming service.
On the free point, although Locast actively doesn't require payment, it is funded by a donation scheme where users can make a regular donation to help cover costs. Some users have taken issue with this approach as those users report the service is geared towards forcing users to donate by offering a sub-par experience when they don't.
What's more, the donation itself is somewhat interesting considering you cannot make a one-off payment as the term would suggest. Instead, the donations are set up as recurring monthly payments – just like a paid subscription.
In reality, the service is in need of financial support as it currently remains equivalent to a beta service. For example, although Locast is available in app from (including a dedicated app for Android TV), the service is only available in select cities in the U.S.
In June of this year, the location support was expanded a little when a few more places gained access to the service, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.
As an interesting side note to this story, it appears that AT&T has been quite supportive of Locast and has even helped to financially back the service.
In fact, this may prove to be an exact example of why the broadcast networks have now taken this approach as AT&T is locked in a standoff with both CBS and Nexstar over access to locals broadcast through DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and U-verse.
As a result of these disputes, locals provided by CBS and Nexstar are currently suffering a blackout on AT&T's video services. These blackouts took effect just weeks after AT&T publicly announced it was making Locast available to its DIRECTV customers. While the NOW version of DIRECTV was not accommodated in the same way, as NOW is more of an app-based solution the lack of native support matters less – any device the DIRECTV NOW app is installed on is also likely to be able to access the Locast app.
The lawsuit specifically highlights some of these points as it looks to prove that Locast is a service designed to benefit the likes of AT&T and Dish Network, not the consumers.
Since the news of the lawsuit came to light, Locast has put out a statement. Locast says its not-for-profit status and its activities are covered under the Copyright Act and draws on the fact that the service has not been sued before as further evidence that the service is protected in this respect.